Book Review: Shishkin Books

There's a new book on Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898) that offers a helpful introduction for the new fan or the confirmed collector of the great Russian realist who specialized in forest scenes.

The new book is the one on the right. It's in the series of inexpensive books (under $15) in English on Russian realists that have been coming out recently. A similar book in the same series on Ilya Repin that came out in 2011 is now out of print and costs well over $60, and the one on Valentin Serov is also out of print and costs over $100. So people have been snapping these up, and I'm sure the Shishkin book will be no exception.

The new book is hardcover, 200 pages, and about 9x12 inches. It has a short biography and overview of Shishkin's place in Russian art, but it's mostly illustrations. There's a sampling of his pen-and-ink work, his etchings, and his pencil studies, as well as a good representation of his oil paintings and studies. But I found that the colors tended to be too contrasty and warm, with the shadows going to black.

A 1996 book called Shishkin (Great Painters) (shown in the middle of the photo above) is comparable in scope and coverage. It's a little larger, about 9.5 x 13 inches. The color in the reproductions is a little better, but some paintings are reproduced smaller than they need to be.

The best book in my opinion is the large, thick 1981 book, printed in the old Soviet Union, and called Shishkin Album. It's shown on the left in the photo above. You can still get this one in its paperback form as a used book, but it's rather expensive. The book is about 254 pages long, and the reproductions are quite good, with many of Shishkin's plein air studies.

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